Wednesday 29 June 2011

Morality- No Thank You

       Now I really thought that I would be the last person, in the whole world, to take part in this blogathon by Filmplicity and Dirty With Class. Why? Because I don't really believe in morals.WHAAAT? Seriously, I have difficulty believing in this whole concept because I don't really understand it. And well, one of the biggest contributors behind this non-belief of mine are the films that I watch. Books are also to "blame", but I have watched way more films than I have read books. And though my film knowledge is still pretty deplorable, I am going to write what I know and think about this topic.

         Morality. The only conclusion that I have come to regarding morality is that it depends on a person's choice. And that's where it goes all hazy. Remember in Donnie Darko, when that freak of a teacher asks Donnie to answer a question by marking it on the lifeline and he says that life isn't that simple? That is me for everything deemed as morals. I have this slightly frowned-upon habit of looking beyond things that are "good" or things that are "bad". Even murderers or terrorists or sexual predators... I always want to know what made them that way. For instance, Lord Voldemort, who is so evil and love-less because he was born out of unnatural love. Or Clarice Starling who is always after justice because of her childhood. There is always a reason, and while I don't go as far as empathise with the characters, I do try somehow to understand why they are the way they are. And in this understanding, the morals go out of the window.

         Just a couple of days back I saw Lars Von Trier's Breaking the Waves. It is about a woman named Bess who starts having sex with other men because she believes that is the only way of making her nearly-paralysed husband better. The church in her little Scottish village condemn her to Hell, but we see that her Lord sends her to Heaven, bells and all. I have not stopped thinking about this film since I saw it. And luckily, it is the perfect film required for my morality argument. The Free Online Dictionary defines morality as "virtuous conduct". Here is a woman who has sex with lots of men like a prostitute, commits adultery, breaks the church's law, practically goes to her death willingly, with the total conviction that God is on her side. And her actions do, coincidentally or not, result in what she had wanted- her husband's recovery. Now I'm not suggesting that people should start sleeping around to save their loved ones, but the fact that Bess did exactly that does not make her a bad person. She's someone who is so full of love for her husband, that virtuous conduct or morality ceases to matter completely. What is right? What is wrong? There are more important things to consider.

           This is where I think I will answer the big question- Do Filmmakers have a Moral Responsibility? No, I don't think that they do. I do, however, think that it is their job to show the more important things, and it is the viewers' jobs to make their minds about them. We can revel at a bank heist gone right or a bride taking revenge. We can mourn the death of a godfather or a Guy Fawkes mask-wearing vigilante. It is our choice.


  1. I agree with your point about understanding giving a new perspective to the question of morality. It doesn;t make an action, or a movie for that matter, any better or "virtous" but at least if a film attempts to understand the reason for such behaviour, without glamorizing or sensationalising it, it is easier to justify more extreme content. But that's not to say that it should be done for the sake of shock value and in my experience of Lars Von Trier the guy has a completely twisted idea of reality. He seems to want to attack his audience with his disturbing scenes and troubling content. Why? To what end? Moderation is key here I think, less is more. The more a film promotes the dignity of the human person the more it benefits its audience and if a film is going to be released for mass consumption I think a responsible filmmaker will make the decision to make a film that will benefit his audience as much as possible.

  2. I agree that it is important to try to understand why people do what they do but this should never be used as justification. We have choices yes but with choice come responsibility.

  3. Hmmm.. just a question as I am intrigued now: How does that work? 'she starts having sex with other men because she believes that is the only way of making her nearly-paralysed husband better..' makes no sense really.
    Was she insane or something? because if she was it's not really a case of morality or a lack of it :)

  4. @Ronan- I agree. It's not that I can't judge what is right or wrong. I was going to write about it, but then I thought I would be digressing from the topic at hand, more than I already have. I think in a very legal sense for these things, which helps to overcome my moral misunderstandings. So I can think like this person deliberately killed someone and so he is wrong, and that one was trying to protect himself and so on.
    Thank you for commenting.

    @Irina- You must watch the film...I didn't want to write down the plot. See Bess herself did have some mental issues, but it's not her own moral sense I am talking about, it is the viewer's when he or she watches it. Bess did everything thinking that God ordained her to do it, so I guess she herself did think it was the right thing to d. But when we watch it, her and her morally-upright society- who do we choose to stand with?